During the previous two seasons, Morgan State's football team gave up more than 36 points a game and the team's fortunes sank as a result.
This fall, that number is down to 18.2 and in the past three games, the Bears have blanked high-scoring Bethune-Cookman for more than three quarters, shut out North Carolina A&T; and held Howard to 12 points (two on a safety). Over that span, the opposition is averaging slightly more than eight points and Morgan has won three straight after a 1-3 start.
What's the difference?
"I really think Coach Lee [new defensive coordinator Alonzo Lee] has been a big part of it," senior defensive lineman Temi Omotade said. "He taught us a lot about respect and being humble. He started all over with hard work and instilling a belief, not just in the defense but the offense and special teams, too. Maybe we're finally reaping the benefits of all this work."
Granted, the Bears got a little lucky against Howard when linemen Robert Armstrong and Lonnie Harvey forced a fumble just as the Bison were poised to score at the Morgan 1-yard line in the second overtime. Linebacker Jarrell Guyton picked up the ball, ran about 20 yards, then lateraled to Everette Baker, who completed a 99-yard fumble return to win the game.
While quarterback Mario Melton has been solid, the defense has produced three straight Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Players of the Week (Terrell Floyd, Omotade and Guyton).
"Defense is what is sparking us," coach Donald Hill-Eley said. "It's stopping people and it's a combination of what Coach Lee has brought, having the personnel and putting it in a position to play at the best of their abilities."
"We're really doing it up front," Omotade said. "We've got an eight-man rotation and everybody stays fresh. And a couple new additions [Armstrong and Floyd] have really fit in."
Meanwhile, the status of Towson quarterback Sean Schaefer for Saturday's game at Villanova is still unknown. Schaefer became ill late last week, missed last Saturday's game against Massachusetts and has not practiced this week. His illness has not been determined while Towson awaits test results that are due today.
The Towson and Johns Hopkins men's soccer teams are on a big roll.
Towson has already clinched a berth in the Colonial Athletic Association tournament with three matches remaining, starting tomorrow at nationally ranked James Madison, and is rated third in the South Atlantic region behind Virginia and Maryland.
The Tigers have the best 14-game record (11-1-2) in the history of a program that started 85 years ago, are leading the CAA at 7-0-1 and have cracked the top 20 in most of the rankings.
"We've had tremendous senior leadership," Towson coach Frank Olszewski said, "and defense has been a huge part of our success."
Towson has nine shutouts and goalkeepers Greg Flaherty and Billy Chiles have combined for an 0.55 goals-against average. Andrew Marshall (Centennial) is one of the defensive leaders and Pat Healey (Calvert Hall), son of Blast general manager Kevin, is the second-leading scorer with four goals and two assists.
Johns Hopkins (13-1) is 11th in the national Division III poll and second in the Mid-Atlantic region after a 10-game winning streak that includes a school-record nine consecutive shutouts. The Blue Jays have already qualified for the Centennial Conference tournament.
Matt Smith is the winningest coach in school history and has the second-best winning percentage in Division III history (.817).
The Blue Jays' leading scorer is Ben McAbee of Hagerstown (19 points), and goalie Danny Coble has 10 shutouts.
Coppin pair lauded
Rashida Suber and Tywain McKee of Coppin State were named to their respective first teams when the MEAC announced its preseason basketball picks and Suber was chosen as the women's Player of the Year.
Suber, a 5-foot-8 senior guard, was an all-MEAC first-team player and the conference tournament's outstanding performer as Coppin won its second consecutive league title.
McKee, a 6-2 junior guard, was a men's second-team selection and league Rookie of the Year after last season when he averaged a team-high 15.4 points and 2.4 steals.
Joining Suber on the first team was 6-3 center Kristi Veltkamp of UMES, who led the league in blocks, averaged 6.7 rebounds and was the Defensive Player of the Year.